World

Pence says U.S. to announce new, tough sanctions on North Korea

Pence says U.S. to announce new, tough sanctions on North Korea

North Korea is sending Kim Yong Nam, the ceremonial leader of North Korea and the most senior official to visit South Korea since the signing of the armistice following the Korean War.

He also ratcheted up his rhetoric on the North's human rights abuses in a speech to USA service members at Yokota Air Base in Japan.

Pence visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage before continuing on to Japan and South Korea.

Pence said North Korea has repeatedly responded to overtures from the world with broken promises and provocations.

Both Japan and South Korea are considered cornerstones of USA security and economic relationships in Asia.

But the January 31 trip wasn't official until less than two hours before the chartered Asiana Airlines flight carrying the South Korean skiers took off for the North's Kalma Airport.

"President Moon expressed gratitude that Lithuania, a key member of the European Union and NATO, is actively supporting our government's North Korea policy, and also asked for its support for efforts to maintain the reconciliatory mood between the South and the North that has been created by the PyeongChang Olympics", the presidential office said. On Wednesday, Pence announced the US would again ramp up economic sanctions aimed at starving the regime of resources.

"The United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most agressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever, and we will continue to isolate North Korea", he said.

"The United States is committed to provide Japan with additional cutting-edge defense systems, and our nations are now working together to deliver these new defense systems as quickly as possible", said Pence, who earlier in the day at the Japanese defense ministry watched a PAC-3 interceptor missile battery's launcher raised to its firing position.




Pence said he aims to ensure North Korea doesn't "hijack" the games as it participates on a joint team with the South, in the view of the White House.

However, North Korea informed the South on Thursday that the delegation including Kim Yo Jong will arrive on a private jet on Friday hours ahead of the Olympics' opening ceremony.

Officials traveling with Pence declined to offer specifics about the sanctions, citing concerns North Korea would use any details to skirt them. The vice president will be holding symbolic events of his own to highlight the North's human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions.

Pence said the US will continue its "maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization".

The White House hopes that sanctions will slow the development of the country's missile program, and strangle the economy to the point where North Korea would put its nuclear weapons on the negotiating table.

"President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven't requested any meetings".

He will also meet Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy premier and is Pence's counterpart in economic talks, although trade friction is expected to take a backseat to security during his visit.

Pence will be joined by Fred Warmbier - the father of USA college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 after detainment in North Korea - at the Games. Asked if war with North Korea is closer than when Trump took office a year ago, Mattis said US policy is "firmly in the diplomatic lane", as shown by agreement among world powers to increase sanctions.


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